By Mandy Griffiths
A small town girl (Julianne Hough) and a city boy (Diego Boneta) meet on the Sunset Strip, while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Sounds like the opening of a song, right? It’s not a coincidence. “Rock of Ages” has music in it. Take note, this might be important later.
The two leads are cute, even if their meeting isn’t. Oh dear you just got mugged and had all your worldy possessions stolen on your first night in L.A.? Probably quite a devastating experience, right? Well I’m just going to tease you about this for a while because you sure are pretty. Oh and come get a job at a sleazy rock bar where the last waitress just quit because she kept getting felt up all the time. Yes, that is correct; I AM your knight in shining armour.
I am harsh; this description makes them sound much more badass than they actually are. When they look and sing to each other they are sincere with a capital S, and would be far more at home running along the bleachers in high school than ground zero of the L.A. rock scene.
Well it’s not long where they have a misunderstanding worthy of a romantic comedy, and they must pursue and be disappointed by their starry eyed dreams alone. But that’s enough about these love torn characters, since we all know how this story ends. There are many more plot points and characters and tensions to build the movie to its climax…”The Bourbon”, the aforementioned sleazy rock bar, is about to go under, and needs the profits of exactly one more Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) concert survive…tension, right? The new Mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta Jones) has it out for Stacee Jaxx and is doing everything in her power to shut down “The Bourbon”, which involves picketing on the street corner with her church ladies. Tension, right? Stacee Jaxx gets questioned for a Rolling Stone interview and doesn’t like the answers, or who’s asking them. Or does he? Tension, right?
But I even feel a little silly focusing on the plot so much. “Rock of Ages” is about 90 per cent music with about 10 per cent dialogue. It’s pretty much song, song, song medley, song, bridging dialogue, song, song, song medley. Now there are some great tunes in there, and I can see why on the stage it would be a rockin good time, with a capital R, but unfortunately this just doesn’t translate on screen. Adam Shankman, the director at the helm has proven to be an incredibly gifted choreographer (famous for choreographing THE “Dirty Dancing” scene, “Hairspray”, Michael Jackson for the “This Is It” concert, and yes, even the “High School Musicals”). He also has the talented choreographer Mia Michaels, working as the official choreographer, yet there are about two dance scenes in the entire film. Don’t get me wrong, everything is choreographed to the minutest detail. It’s just unfortunate that the choreography pretty much consists of walking, stopping, singing, walking AND singing, walking and singing and then POSING, then more walking and singing. And no one more effectively does this than Stacey Jaxx himself. So here’s the real question – how is Tom? Tom is great…for about a third of his time on screen. You know how drunk people are really boring when you’re sober? Yeah Stacey Jaxx is really drunk. All the time. What would have been an amazing extended cameo, as was his role in “Tropic Thunder”, is fleshed out way too much a for one note character. And if you’ve seen Tom strutting around on stage doing his thing for one number, you’ve seen them all. But you get to see it three times. He embodies the character completely, you have to admire that. But less is more. The funniest line of the whole film I thought went to a complete unknown, sitting late at night at the Rolling Stone office talking to himself.
So is it all bad? No. Russell Brand, in his role as second in charge to Alec Baldwin’s owner of “The Bourbon” definitely looks the most at home in the outlandish 80s garb, and their duet together towards the end of the film has to be the highlight. I guess I’m just not sure who this film is aimed at? It’s a bit too dirty to go the kid/tween market, yet too wholesome for young adults. The now 40 year olds who were in their prime in 1987? Yeah, let’s go with them.
“Rock of Ages” is pretty much “High School Musical” in L.A. where all characters are of age, sometimes in underwear, other times in crazy costumes. There’s also a monkey. So there’s that. Go see it for 80s nostalgia, but I have to say, I think “Moulin Rouge” pulled off the musical medley thing much better.